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    The Medical Palm Review

    April, 2006 (V7N4) - On the Road Again

    April is the start of spring, when the Canadian New Year really starts. January we are too cold and snowbound to make plans and find new computers. April is also a time for seasonal weirdness. Some of the news this month is indeed rather odd....

    New Firm-ware

    Palm has announced their latest corporate reorganization. Those following the twists and turns will recall that, after separating the hardware and software divisions of the company, the hardware operation was renamed PalmOne. Recently, they changed their name back to Palm.

    However, flush with the success of the new Treo 700, the company has decided to undergo yet another reorganization and name change. Apparently the group that manufactures Palm OS devices will once again be known as PalmOne. Another group will be spun off to make the Treo 700 and other models based on the Pocket PC operating system. It will be called PalmTwo or PalmToo.

    Yet another division will be created to bring out the long-awaited Linux-based PDA that has been rumoured to be in the works. This new company has been tentatively named PalmThree but, since Linux is given away at no charge, wags have suggested PalmFree instead.

    Corporate spokespersons declined comment on the plans, except to say official announcements would be put off until the beginning of the next fiscal year on the First of April.

    March in Hawaii

    No, not hiking around the Hawaiian islands. We flew there, then boarded a cruise ship to sail around them. This was the second international journey in a month for me (in February I went to the HIMSS conference in San Diego). But this time it was supposed to be a leisure excursion during Spring Break. Our motley crew of kids, parents, with luggage and yet more luggage set out to have some fun in the sun.

    But I also had work to bring along. This issue of The Review was pending. I had to prepare a seminar for medical students and catch up on some medical journal reading. Normally I would do all that with my laptop PC but the extra weight seemed unreasonable and was sure to be even less welcome on the homeward leg (the women in my family like to shop when we travel).

    Having vacationed on cruise ships before, I also knew there might not be a flat surface large enough for the laptop in our cabin. Nor would there be room in the cabin lockbox to store the laptop when we went ashore for excursions.

    On the plus side, modern liners often have access to wireless Internet in their lounges and a satellite link to the Internet Prices last year, when I cruised to Alaska, ago were as high as the satellite: USD0.60 per minute. However my Handera HE 330 and a wireless networking card can access the Internet and would at least save some weight in my luggage. So I decided to bring them along.

    Handera HE330 top view, demonstrating two card slotsAnother advantage of the HE 330 is that it has two card slots. One is a standard SD slot, just like most Palm PDAs. The other slot holds a Compact Flash (CF) card. This makes the HE330 perfect as a backup device for my camera (which stores photos on a CF card) and my Treo cell phone (which uses SD). I can use a File manager (like Filez) to move images from one device or card to another. Multiple redundant backup pathways always make me feel happier. I also moved a bunch of medical journal articles onto an SD card and brought my reading material along that way, saving even more weight.

    I threw in a Palm folding keyboard, a few HotSync cables, a recharger for my Treo smartphone and spare memory cards. After that I was ready, at a total weight of less than a kilogram, to do without my laptop.

    All At Sea

    It started raining the day we arrived in Honolulu and didn't let up until we were on our last two days of vacation. The rain outside was matched by the leaking plumbing indoors; our shipboard cabin carpet was sodden for much of the time.

    On our first evening aboard I tried to sign up for wireless Internet using my HE330 but found that the system absolutely required Windows XP and Internet Explorer to function. The Internet service broke down (router problems) on the very next day and was not operational again until the last day at sea. There was also a cascade of further systems failures which knocked out the dining reservation system, then other hotel services, and finally (one stormy night) even the ship's navigational systems while we were off the rocky coast of Kauai. Things looked rather grim at that point and passengers were beginning to panic.

    Planetarium screen shotFortunately, I had a copy of Planetarium loaded onto my PDA. Just when it appeared all was lost I left my family in the stateroom and went up to the bridge. Miraculously, the clouds cleared and with the Planetarium software I used the stars to help the captain steer the ship away from certain disaster on the rocks. Afterwards the ship's officers insisted on buying me a few drinks at the bar, while I regaled them with exciting stories about life on the cutting edge of information systems technology.

    When I got back to our stateroom a few hours later, my wife was very concerned about where I had been all that time. She could scarcely believe that my techno toys had finally found some real use. But that's my version of how I spent the evening and I am sticking to it.

    The next day we went ashore on Big Island and I slipped into an Internet Cafe to check my accumulated e-mail for any important messages. Half an hour later (and five dollars poorer) I had successfully dealt with about two hundred spam messages and found nothing of consequence in the rest. But I was not out in the rain and not watching my wife shop so there were some positive features.

    All in all, not the best holiday I ever had but it could have been worse. The ship could have sunk. Or my wife could have thrown me overboard.

    Medical "Doc" of the Month

    I carry a few medical reference texts in digital format on my Palm PDA. Regrettably, they had almost nothing to say about remedies for motion sickness. There was a great deal of information about treating sunburn, injuries from marine life, and tropical diseases - things that didn't matter as we were not exposed to much sun or beach or sea water during this trip.

    But about motion sickness there was nothing helpful when we needed it.

    Nuts and Bolts

    Much has been made lately of card drives - portable devices that let you download from a camera or PDA's memory to free up space for more photos of files. This is also a good backup system. Well, rather than buy a new gizmo, I can use the Handera HE330 as a card drive.

    In Hawaii on outings I carried my Treo 650 and my digital camera. The camera was good for photos and the Treo took acceptable low resolution videos. After returning to my cabin I would transfer photos from the camera to the Handera by simply popping out the camera's CF card and putting in the appropriate slot in the Handera. Notes about photos could be jotted down in the Treo's memopad and copied to the Handera using IR beaming. Videos on the Treo SD card and photos on the Canon CF card could be swapped back and forth using the HE330 as intermediary.

    Undomesticated Hawaiian volcanoBut file management tools on Palm devices are somewhat rudimentary. As a result, it can be difficult to know if you are pruning the right folders and files. One wrong stylus tap and files can disappear forever. If you are lucky, you won't erase any irreplaceable holiday snapshots.

    If you aren't lucky, after telling your friends and family what you did, you can dine alone for the rest of the cruise.

    Hack of the Month

    What do you get when you cross a selectively permeable membrane with a sweaty hand? Hot Hands is a new galvanic power system for handheld computers. The screen can be made brighter if the user becomes nervous which increases the perspiration rate of his palm, or Palm. Before reaching for that soldering gun, just remember that installing the Hot Hands hardware and software will definitely short out your warranty.

    In Times to Come

    By now, you should have all figured out that this is the April Fool's issue of the Review.

    It's possible that some of the foregoing is true and not silly or humorous. You will have to decide for yourself which parts.

    None of the foregoing hammer is meant to resemble or describe any real corporate entity or commercial product and any such resemblance is strictly coincidental and not to be taken seriously.

    Next month we will get back to business. Until then...


    This is one of a continuing series of newsletters about Palm handheld computers, prepared for doctors, nurses, IT professionals, educators, punsters, clowns and other people who need tools that run on rechargeable batteries. The Review is published monthly on our web site. Except when it is not. Subscription is free; the principal benefit is not receiving e-mail notification of new issues. The editors regret to inform both of our regular readers that the online version of the newsletter cannot be used to wrap fish.

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